Quarantine Wellness with Dr. Brittany Schamerhorn N.D. Why you need to get back on track with Sleep
We know how you're feeling as this not-so-little pandemic was, for many of us, a little unexpected. Quarantine life is... different! From social distancing guidelines to fatigue,, loneliness, and slipping sometimes in the routines that keep us happiest. What can we do to keep us happiest and healthy?
Dr. Brittany Schamerhorn is a naturopathic doctor at Balance Medical Integrative Clinic in downtown Vancouver who knows these struggles and is working hard in helping her patients make healthy holistic lifestyle habits that are sustainable.
We were so excited to interview her to get to the bottom of what we can all do to stay well and healthy- both physically and emotionally.
In our conversation, Dr. Brittany shared her perspective on why getting to the root cause of an issue is so essential, and what she's experiencing today in her practice- and why she says its the perfect time to reflect.
"Quarantine provides the perfect opportunity to get down to the root cause of your issue, with time to put more effort into healthy home-cooked meals and figuring out the supplementation that works best for you. While the opportunity is there - productivity has not been the easiest for people to achieve with warranted anxiety about the world today. In terms of habits, the number one casualty among all this? Sleep!"
The key here is to look at the whole picture and have a balance of both when first tackling a health issue. You can’t just look at the symptom, or else you’ll be stuck reliant on medication for your headaches which could possibly be giving you side effects.
“You need to play both sides. The best example is if you have a headache, you need to be able to do something that will take the headache away immediately - but then at the same time, we want to figure out why you’re experiencing the headache in the first place. Maybe you have a headache every Wednesday, or when you eat certain foods ... if we can figure out what’s going on and why you have a symptom, then we don’t even need to do the symptom management or symptomatic treatment anymore which is the goal!.”
It's the same thing for sleep! In getting schedules back on track, she encourages patients to take it one day at a time. Every night a little better.
"My biggest tip is, even though we are adults - giving ourselves a bedtime!
Even if it’s just midnight - that’s much more attainable than the ideal of 10:30pm when you’ve been regularly going to sleep at 2 or 3am throughout quarantine. Having a set time where we always go to bed around that time, weekends included, is essential because our bodies really like routine."
If we can train our bodies to know what time we’re going to bed at, it will naturally start to unwind at the same time every night, and the hormone-secreting system will adapt and start to regulate within that sleep routine. Going to sleep at different times everyday confuses the body because it doesn’t know what time to secrete melatonin, it feels like its always jet-lagged.
“Creating a bedtime routine for yourself is also helpful. It starts to signal that its time to unwind. I recommend a bath or hot shower because our body temperature needs to drop a little bit in order to initiate sleep. You can add some lavender bath salts or Epsom salts for magnesium. Supplement wise, there are tons out there you can use! It’s mostly about figuring out why you can’t go to sleep... for the most part, right now it’s the routine change since being in quarantine."
Incorporating the set bedtime and bedtime routine should be enough to get your body back on track within a week. If you’re dealing with anxiety and your mind’s running, calming herbs and supplements may help manage the shift.
Technologies and wearables have also been a got-to inDr. Schamerhorn's practice and personal health journey. Keeping track of sleep can help you realize where you are with it, and slowly shift back and feel your best. What we change what we track!
The brain functions best with the right sleep amount for you. It's great to track and when you feel you are most happy and productive against what that number is for you. Generally, the more deep sleep, the better.
“I do a lot personally! I always have many wearables and an Apple watch. My patients do a lot as well - [wearables] provide a to provide a lot of insight. I even recommend patients use their phones as a tracker if they don’t have a wearable, especially for women and their period. It’s just so easy with our technology today. I think it’s given a lot more power to patients, which is fantastic. Patients are the ones living their lives, I’m just there to guide them"
"By having the data it closes the feedback loop. Patients can see ‘Okay if I don’t move, my mood is not as good. But this week I made a purposeful goal to get in this many steps and my mood was better. They just have a lot more control and understanding of themselves.”
It's hard not to pick up on her energy, and the truth that Dr. Schamerhorn is an enthusiastic practitioner of behaviour change!
If you don't have a wearable, that's good too! Setting a bedtime in the Clock app can help your phone estimate how much you've slept based on when you put your phone down and pick it up in the morning.
Empowerment starts with you. Just know that it's possible even when times are overwhelming to get 30 minutes. It will help you perform y the time you wake up.
Sleep is magic food for memory consolidation, mood, memory retention, impulse control, and generally being and feeling like your best you. Turning devices off at night to reduce blue-light is key. Blue light interacts with your melatonin production. Trying to avoid eating late at night can help too.
Here's a hack- have a delicious breakfast/latte/tea / green smoothie or juice planned that you can't wait to get to sleep and wake up in the morning for.
We will get through this together, and you can do it! We believe in you.
Learn more about Dr. Brit at @drbritschamerhorn.nd on Instagram!